A highly anticipated trilogy fight is scheduled to go down this weekend in the main event of UFC 281. There, at New York’s Madison Square Garden, Israel Adesanya will defend his UFC middleweight title against Alex Pereira, a man he met (and lost to) twice during his days in GLORY kickboxing.
Pereira recently appeared on MMA Fighting’s Portuguese language podcast Trocação Franca with Guilherme Cruz. During that appearance Poatan claimed ‘The Last Stylebender’ had been forced into this fight.
“If he really wanted this, he would have done that as soon as I signed with the UFC,” he said. “He’s being forced to fight, he’s the champion. It’s obvious that he cares about the belt.”
“He knows I’m not like the other guys he fought, otherwise the results would have been different in both times we fought,” Pereira continued. “He knows I’m different, and I’m proving that. I’m showing that in my three UFC fights. I’m being honest here. He doesn’t want this fight. Nobody wants. His team doesn’t want it. People close to him don’t want it because they know the risk. Is he good? Is he the champion? He’s there because he did what he did. Everybody knows my potential and sees my evolution.
“Right after I got in the UFC he said he would like to fight me maybe after four fights but ‘calm down’. He wanted [to fight me], but only after I did four fights. Why? He had in his mind I could lose to someone and he would say, ‘Is that the guy you want me to fight?’ I never believed that, but some people did. Others realize now he was bluffing. That’s not what he wants.
“Right after it was announced that my next fight would be for the belt against him, he and his whole team said it was a bit unfair that I was fighting for the belt because I just got here, that Adesanya did so many fights and I should do the same. Man, I’m just hearing that and taking it as something positive for me. That shows me he pretended he wanted [to fight me] and when I got here, his whole team was against it. That shows all of them, he and his team are mentally shook.”
During the podcast Pereira also weighed in on Adesanya’s more recent performances, which have been criticized for being bereft of action and killer instinct.
“There’s no way he fights the way he’s been fighting, he will have to be more aggressive,” Pereira reckoned. “I’m ready for that. We’re talking MMA, we’re not talking kickboxing. I think he comes more aggressive, and that’s perfect for me.”
Pereira is clearly confident that his fight with Adesanya will go similar to the previous times they tangled (one which Pereira won by decision and the other by stunning KO). The Brazilian said that this confidence has lead to some backlash online.
“I posted something the other day and someone wrote, ‘Be more humble. The champion himself posted the video of him getting knocked out by you. F*ck, so tell him to post a video of him knocking me out. He doesn’t have that. I’ve knocked out the guy that is UFC champion today. It doesn’t matter if that was 30 years ago, it’s part of my history and people want to take that away from me. It doesn’t make sense.”
UFC 281: Adesanya vs. Pereira goes live at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV. The co-main event has Carla Esparza defending her UFC strawweight title against former champion Zhang Weili. The main card also includes a contest between lightweight title challengers Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler.